Internet Diet Drugs Pose Hidden Dangers

We’ve been writing about the dangers of purchasing medications and supplements over the internet. Some supplements tout incredible benefits while not fully disclosing ingredients, some dangerous.

Prevention pointed out, for example that the weight loss supplement, Slimming Beauty Bitter Orange Slimming Capsules, which were sold on the Internet last year and which were touted as being “100% herbal” and “a natural vitamin and calcium” capsule that could be used by children as young as two years old, contained illegal ingredients in dangerous quantities. Prevention reported that Slimming Beauty contained sibutramine, which is a prescription strength stimulant drug and which could have led to heart attack in some people. Sibutramine is generic for the brand name diet drug, <"">Meridia, which was removed from the market last October at the urging of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), noted Prevention.

Meridia was approved in 1997; however, a recent six-year study that and involved 10,000 patients revealed that the drug increased risks for nonfatal “cardiovascular events,” such as heart attacks and strokes, by 16 percent, explained Prevention.

At the same time, the FDA issued a consumer warning against Slippin Beauty, pointing to a number of reports of serious adverse events such as increased blood pressure, headaches, vomiting, and insomnia, said Prevention, which noted that there is no regulatory power over supplements as with medications, which means clinical trials are virtually nonexistent. The FDA must run its own tests on supplements to determine if dangerous or illegal drugs are included in a product’s ingredients before it can move to have a product banned.

If a so-called spiked product is being sold on the Internet, determining a manufacturer can prove incredibly challenging, said Prevention. This was the case with Slimming Beauty, which, after the FDA alert, disappeared from the Internet.

“Dietary supplements may represent the next big drug safety catastrophe,” said Steven Nissen, MD, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic and a Prevention advisory board member, quoted Prevention. “We don’t know exactly what most supplements contain, so we don’t know if they’re actually safe,” Dr. Nissen added.

There has been a decided increase in adulterated weight loss products and products that treat sexual dysfunction or enhance athletic performance, wrote Prevention. “Originally, the makers would throw in something like caffeine to give you a kick,” said Tod Cooperman, MD, president of, quoted Prevention. “Now they’re adding in compounds you find in prescription drugs without including that information on their labels,” he added.

Some products are sold on the Internet to avoid regulator mandates, such as iterations of Meridia, Viagra, Cialis, or Levitra, a problem because, when purchased without the consent or cooperation of a physician, there is no telling how much of a medication a patient is ingesting.

In recent years, FDA has alerted consumers to nearly 300 tainted products marketed as dietary supplements and received numerous complaints of injury associated with these products.

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